No money for swimming lessons: Hilversum’s swimming pool vouchers are urgent with a ‘free’ diploma

There has been a storm at the Hilversum swimming pool ‘t Gooische Bad, as the swimming pool offers free swimming lessons to children and adults who cannot actually afford the lessons. The swimming hall was recently opened for this together with Hilversum’s food bank and Ungdommens Idrætsfond. “The problem of people not being able to afford swimming lessons is worse than we think,” says owner Shiva de Winter.

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Ukrainian refugee children and adults have been learning to swim in the Hilversum bath for a long time. In recent months, De Winter has heard more and more that there are more and more children in his own hometown who cannot go to swimming lessons because of their parents’ small budget.

National attention

Precisely because Hilversommeren also draws national attention to swimming safety and emphasizes the importance of swimming lessons, he decided to contact the local food bank and the Youth Sports Fund. In this way, he will give a helping hand to Hilversummers, who are forced to appeal to the food bank.

The three have been working together for a month now. De Winter concludes from the number of registrations that there is a great need for swimming lessons. The counter now stands at sixty. And new requests come in every day. Not only from Hilversum there is interest in his initiative. The food bank in Huizen has already knocked on his door.

The tip of the iceberg

“This is only the tip of the iceberg,” De Winter reports to NH News. “There are many more children without a swimming certificate than we realize. We have to scratch our heads; it really is the forgotten target group that has only grown,” he adds.

“We also received applications from children up to 17 years old and even from eight adults”

Shiva de Winter van ‘t Gooische Bad

What strikes him, beyond the rapid dozens of sign-ups, is that many ‘older’ children want to take swimming lessons. In the Netherlands, it is customary to start lessons around the age of five. De Winter sees a clear age shift due to all the waiting lists and backlogs that have arisen due to the shutdowns in corona times.

Large group

Many children who have signed up now are over the age of seven, and there is even a large group who are ten years or more older. “We have also received applications from children up to the age of seventeen and even from eight adults who would like their diplomas,” he says.

Even before the children have properly started the project ‘All children with a swimming diploma’, a big problem arises. Ungdommens Idrætsfond, which makes it financially possible for young people to get their swimming certificate, is struggling with a lack of money.

All children who have registered for the new year can simply swim in De Winter, but for all others there is space on the foundation’s waiting list. Hilversumeren says that he is making an attempt to get a part refunded to the latter group in another way. For example, there must be and will be room for new registrations.

No sequel?

“We would therefore not be able to continue this project, which is a real shame considering the influx,” says a worried De Winter. Hilversumeren then mainly looks at the municipality. He hopes that Hilversum will contribute financially as one of the foundation’s sponsors, so that it will be possible for everyone to obtain a swimming diploma. Hilversum thus makes an important contribution to swimming safety, he argues.

Swimwear wanted, especially for teenagers

Many parents who have knocked on the door of the food bank cannot afford swimming lessons, but this also applies to swimwear. “It’s really something we haven’t considered”, admits Shiva de Winter, now that the project is about to start. “If the weather is good and you can’t swim, you don’t have swimwear, which is quite expensive.” He himself still had a stock of swimwear from the time he still had a shop on Havenstraat, but it is far from sufficient.

Parents of other members were asked if they would like to donate swimwear that their own children no longer wear. Outside help has also been called in. The hope is that enough swimsuits, swimming trunks, swimming shoes and towels will be donated. For example, ‘t Gooische Bad works together with Tøjbanken.

This clothing aid is slowly getting started. At the Hilversum swimming pool, people are especially looking for unusual sizes. Precisely because many teenagers have signed up, an age that is not very common for swimming lessons, the need for larger sizes is great. “These are the things we now come across. It’s a puzzle for a while. It’s good to see that people are thinking from all sides,” said the swimming pool owner.

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